Interstellar is a good movie. That's my official opinion on the film, having just seen it in the theater yesterday. But I had some issues with the sound at my screening, and as it turns out, I wasn't alone. Is this an issue of Christopher Nolan's preference for thrilling scores and loud sound effects clashing with dialogue? Was there simply a problem with the theater's sound at my screening?
To rule out the latter scenario, I called my local Regal theater today and explained that I saw Interstellar there on Sunday afternoon and there were parts of the film -- dialogue, specifically -- that I couldn't quite hear. Something about the sound seemed off. I asked if they had any information on the situation and was told by a very polite gentleman that they hadn't received any other complaints about the sound in Interstellar, nor had they received any kind of memo about the problem.
Ok, so maybe it was just me. Except that I knew it wasn't just me, as my husband had the same issue, largely as it related to hearing dialogue during specific scenes...
Vague spoiler alert ahead!
There were moments during the film where I couldn't hear what was being said. This happened at least twice during scenes when the spaceship was making big engine-roaring noises, which were great for sound effects, but not so great when people in the movie are saying things to one another. I only caught part of that great joke Tars made to demonstrate his humor capabilities. And there was one key scene where Michael Caine was talking, during which I had to strain my ears. I'm also not sure if we were supposed to be able to hear what Murph said to her brother when she was hugging him by the truck. I assumed that was all supposed to be muted "you get the gist of what she's saying" dialogue, but maybe not?
/end vague spoilers.
I knew I wasn't alone in having trouble hearing parts of the film, but it doesn't sound like this was a big enough problem at my local theater to be brought to their attention (by anyone else besides me, anyway). So, I went to Twitter to see what the chatter was there, and found some Tweets noting issues related Interstellar's sound at other theaters...
Beyond Twitter, Washington Post ran an article that references sound issues in past Christopher Nolan films, Inception and The Dark Knight Rises among them. The Post states that they were able to hear most of the words spoken in Interstellar, but they cited Hollywood Elsewhere's criticism about the "bassy and woofer-throbby" sound and the complaints they heard from others about it after the screening.
If there are spaceships in the movie, I want bassy and woofer-throbby. I want to feel like I'm sitting on that ship about to be launched into space or through a wormhole. I want sound to match the visuals. Give me all the sound the speakers and my eardrums handle. I don't mind loud. But I want to hear what the actors are saying, because I do actually care about what's happening. I want to hear Tars tell a joke. I want to hear one character's crucial words to another if it's part of the story and I'm supposed to be able to hear it. I had some issues with that with Interstellar. It sounds like others have too.
Until/unless we hear anything official on the sound situation, the extent of this issue is unclear or might vary too drastically from one theater to the next -- or one moviegoer to the next -- to know just how serious the sound problem is and how many people are experiencing it. It does seem to be an issue though.
The above said, I liked the film. Barring the minor detachment I experienced during the moments when I felt like I was straining my ears, the sound issues didn't drastically detract from my enjoyment of the movie. If anything, I'm hopeful that this won't be an issue when I inevitably watch the movie again when it hits Blu-ray. And I definitely don't regret seeing it in the theater. Between its great visual effects, intriguing story and its efforts to explore space, humanity and the unknown, Interstellar really is what going to the movies is all about.
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